Toddlers and babies need to keep active during the day; they need stimulation and new experiences (and so do their caregivers). While older toddlers/preschoolers will be able to enjoy most of the Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Vancouver, younger toddlers and babies have different needs.
In this Guide to Activities for Toddlers in Vancouver, you'll discover the free and cheap community and school programs for toddlers and babies offered to Vancouver residents, as well as which Vancouver kids' attractions work best for toddlers, outdoor activities for toddlers, and more.
1. StrongStart at Vancouver Elementary Schools
One of my favourite activities for toddlers in Vancouver is the absolutely-free StrongStart program. StrongStart is a program for parents and caregivers and kids 0 - 5 years old. Basically, kids and their caregivers head to a classroom inside a Vancouver elementary school that has loads of toys at different tables around the room. There are usually two hours of "free play" with the toys (which also allows for kids' social interaction), followed by a group activity with interactive songs and then a free snack.
Parents/caregivers must stay with their kid during the program; it's not a drop-off. But if your child is engaged enough in the play, you may find that you're able to read a magazine for those two hours of "free play" (I accomplished it once or twice).
Use the Vancouver School Board StrongStart site to find a program near you.
2. Parent & Tot Gym at Vancouver Community Centres
Many of the best activities for toddlers in Vancouver can be found at Vancouver Community Centres. Your local community centre has a lot of programs for toddlers, from early gymnastics classes to early sports.
For cheap activities for toddlers and babies, check out the Parent & Tot Gym classes. Times vary by location (ask your local Vancouver Community Centre for details), but the Parent & Tot Gym class is drop-in (no commitment required), costs about $3 per visit, and is a giant gym space where babies and toddlers can bounce balls, ride tricycles, climb and tumble over mats, practice hockey and basketball, and just generally run wild. (All of the gym toys/balls/mats, etc., are provided; sometimes there's even a bouncy castle.)
A parent or caregiver must accompany the child to the Parent & Tot Gym; it's not supervised or drop-off. Vancouver Community Centres do have on-site daycare options, though, so ask about that if needed.
3. Family Storytime at Vancouver Public Libraries
One of the Top 10 Rainy Day Activities for Kids in Vancouver is heading to your local Vancouver Public Library (VPL). The VPL offers special activities for toddlers and babies in Family Storytime, a free library event that features stories, songs, and interactive play. Times vary by location, so check your local VPL branch for details.
4. Community Playgrounds and Parks
Vancouver is blessed with a wealth of community playgrounds and parks that are free to use anytime of year. Find playgrounds near you using the Vancouver Park Board site.
Parks are also great resources for getting toddlers outside and running around. Trout Lake has both a beach area (no swimming) for sand play as well as a playground, and toddlers will love the dancing fountains atop Queen Elizabeth Park (where you can also visit the indoor Bloedel Conservatory). See also: Stanley Park Top 10.
5. Vancouver Attractions for Toddlers & Babies
Vancouver attractions offer a range of activities for toddlers and babies. The best indoor attraction for toddlers in Vancouver is Science World British Columbia, which has two areas specially designed for little folk: the baby- and toddler-oriented Kidspace and a super-fun physics-oriented gallery called Eureka! that lets kids launch balls, dance on keyboards, and play invisible harp strings. A single visit to Science World is expensive, but the family membership--when used for multiple visits--makes frequent trips cheap when prorated throughout the year.
See also: Best Vancouver Attractions for Kids
The Miniature Burnaby Central Railway (weekends only, Easter - Thanksgiving)
Maplewood Farm "Petting Zoo"
Vancouver Aquarium (again, look into family membership fees to keep down costs)